Karen shortly after operationKaren with bandages offKaren ready for inspectionKaren with post op consultation

"The pain is pretty yuck straight after surgery, naturally. Within 24hrs it has halved and you just need to do nothing as there is someone there to do everything …"


Information by Dr Rick van der Poel
Edited for the website by Lorraine Melvill

Face Lift – Rhytidectomy

A face lift (rhytidectomy) is an operation in which the loose muscles of the face and neck are tightened, the skin re-draped and the excess trimmed off to provide an improvement in facial contour. It is a procedure done to give a rejuvenated appearance and is beneficial whenever there is excessive sagging of facial and neck skin. It is never possible to remove all the folds of the skin nor eliminate all the wrinkles. Only as much skin will be removed as is safely possible. Occasionally additional procedures may be done at the same time as a face lift, such as eyelid surgery, neck surgery or a brow lift. Laser skin resurfacing of certain areas can also be done concurrently. These options would all be discussed in full pre-operatively.

Here are some frequently asked questions about face lifts:

Is major surgery required?

A face lift is a major surgical procedure which takes approximately three hours. It may be performed under either a local anaesthetic with sedation or a full anaesthetic. To minimise swelling, drainage tubes are placed beneath the neck skin after the operation. These will be removed after 24 hours. After the operation there will be swelling of the face and bruising of the eyelids. This bruising will be most noticeable on the second and third days and diminishes from between one to six weeks after surgery although this depends on your type of skin, age and healing ability.

When may normal activities be resumed?

You may spend the night in hospital. You will not be allowed to drive so should make arrangements for someone to fetch you. Social activity should be limited for about 10 to 20 days and strenuous activities are to be avoided for two to six weeks when all bruises have faded and there is no discomfort. It is better to avoid any physical activity. You may shower by the second or third day but care must be taken not to 'fiddle' with the wounds. Most patients, wearing light make-up, can return to work or their normal activities after about seven days.

How long does a face lift last?

This is impossible to state for a given individual as there are many factors involved. The type of skin you have, the degree of pre-existing sun damage, your age and aging rate all bear an influence on the eventual outcome of a face lift. An individual's healing ability, changes in weight, smoking history and general state of health are also determining factors. A face lift cannot retard the aging process, it merely 'turns back the clock'. Most patients have sufficient improvement following a face lift to keep them looking younger than their contemporaries forever and it is possible to have another face lift in later years to maintain a more youthful appearance.

What are the possible complications?

Although complications and bad results are uncommon with this type of operation, they do sometimes occur. It is not possible to list all potential complications. They include blistering of the skin which may result in scarring; infection; bleeding; unequal discolouration and swelling of the face; abnormal contour of the face; nerve damage causing temporary or permanent loss of feeling in the face and weakness in facial muscles. Some of these complications may require further surgery.

Certain complication, particularly blistering and skin loss around the ears are seen more frequently in smokers. Patients who smoke are urged not to smoke for four week before and after surgery to minimise the likelihood of complications.

Will I be scarred?

Although the surgical scars are permanent, the incisions are placed so that they are barely discernable. The exact position of the scars will be discussed at your consultation.

How should I prepare for my operation?

You need to shampoo your hair daily for two days before surgery. You should not eat or drink after midnight prior to the day of surgery. You will be given two sedative pills - one to take the night before surgery and the other to take the morning before leaving home to relieve normal anxiety.

Wear loose fitting clothing which is easy to remove. Do not wear any make-up or facial moisturisers to hospital.

What care is necessary after the operation?

A face lift is a delicate, extensive operation. The fine suturing of the deep muscle layer must be protected from rupturing in the first two weeks. Sudden jerks or moves may cause the innermost stitches to pull free and so compromise the long-term result. You will be asked to adhere to the following restrictions after the operation: Do not remove bandages yourself.



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